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In The Fire Next Time, the writer James Baldwin speaks of “parties where rage and sorrow sat in the darkness and did not stir.” When one views Blaxploitation films, one sees “rage and sorrow” through various manifestations of what it “felt like” to be black at that time in America. Looking at important films, directors and actors of the period, this discussion will examine the extent to which the Blaxploitation era was one of black empowerment and risk-taking, yielding films that challenged the racial status quo while thrilling black audiences. We will examine important directors, actors, and the musical scores of Blaxploitation, including such important directors as Gordon Parks Sr., Bill Gunn, Gordon Parks Jr., Melvin Van Peebles, and others. Moreover, we will look at issues behind the camera, such as the peculiar marketing and promotion of these films, as well as the distinctive difference in Blaxploitation films directed by black directors. And finally, we will examine some of the musical scores, which were composed by such legendary musicians as Issac Hayes (SHAFT), Curtis Mayfield (SUPER FLY), Marvin Gaye (TROUBLE MAN), Willie Hutch (THE MACK), and others. Together, we will examine the “rage and sorrow,” and the style and spirit of this important era of filmmaking, Blaxploitation.
This seminar is presented in conjunction with Music City Mondays: Blaxploitation, Mondays in July. (Seminar ticket and movie tickets sold separately.)
About the speaker: Dr. Frank E. Dobson Jr. is associate dean of students, Social Justice & Identity at Vanderbilt University. His publications include two novels, Rendered Invisible (2010, Plain View Press) and The Race is Not Given (1999, Sterling House), which address such issues as rational suicide and racially motivated violence. Dobson has also published scholarly work in black literature, as well as poetry and short fiction. Most recently, he has published articles on film and race, examining such figures as the pioneering black actor Woody Strode as well as issues of blackness and whiteness in the works of film directors Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee.